Shortages come in all shapes and sizes. In Southern California, it’s water. Everyone remembers the ammo situation, of course.
Well, there is no shortage of AR-15 accessories on the market. Without much effort, I could probably think of at least a dozen different kinds of grips available to customize one’s rifle to taste. Even with a market so heavily saturated in options, though, every once in a while, you’ll see a product that jumps out from the crowd, and causes you to pause and take a closer look. The grips from Executive Ordnance are such products.
Not only are these products more than just a simple grip, they offer the user a new degree of modularity to an already highly modular rifle, along with the option of grip styles and materials previously only offered with high-end handgun grips.
The Executive Ordnance (EO) grip is more of a platform than a simple grip. It consists of a lightweight 7075 machined-aluminum frame that is MIL-A-8625, Type III hard-anodized with a black finish.
Six grip-frame options are available, varying mainly in the style and texture of the back straps: the Balls, the Molon Labe, the Edge, the Professional Sportsman (PS), the Matrix and the Lady Gunner.
The Balls has a series of machined divots for an even more aggressive grip; the Molon Labe is engraved with the classic Greek phrase, Molon labe (Meaning “come and take them”); the Edge has a series of machined scallops for enhanced grip, which also adds a bit of traction to the grip and is an appropriate sentiment on a modern sporting rifle or pistol; the PS has a smooth back strap; the Matrix and the Lady Gunner are the two newest additions to the line, with the Matrix having a checkered back strap and the Lady Gunner sporting some elegant scrollwork.
When it’s time to order, you have a number of choices to make.
First, you have to choose one of the six available grip frames. Then, you need to pick what style of grip panel you want, which leaves you with five more choices: Standard, Honeycomb, Trax, TraxL and Stealth.
The Standard panels have asset of machined ridges in them; the Honeycomb a series of holes; the Trax and TraxL feature a set of very aggressive grooves; the Stealth smooth finish has a bit of a palm swell.
Color is next, and Executive Ordnance offers a lot of options. The company carries 10 different colors to match with whatever sort of build you’re doing—work, hunting or sport. Available colors include black, coyote, OD, red, orange/black, brown/black, OD/black, gray/black, zombie green/black and blue/black.
“Versatility, style and function are what the Executive Ordnance grips bring to the table.”
Executive Ordnance CNC machines its grip panels out of G-10. If you’re coming from the high-end production and custom-knife crowd, you’re probably already aware of the performance characteristics of G-10. If you aren’t, here’s a quick rundown.
G10 is a laminate product, made up of layers of fiberglass soaked in resin. It is then highly compressed to a minimum of 200 psi, and baked at 300 degrees Fahrenheit. The result is an incredibly durable material that’s virtually impervious to moisture and stable under any climate changes, like subzero conditions or the high heats of the American Southwest or other desert settings. It’s also highly impact-resistant.
The bead-blasted finish that EO uses provides an extremely good grip, even when coated with sweat or other liquids. I’ve used G-10-handled knives for years; I’ve used them under cold, wet conditions—including when the handles have been covered in sweat and blood—and had extremely good results. They’ll hold up well past the point where plastic can fail, and keep looking good and working well while doing so. My work SIG wears a set of G-10 grips for that very reason.
Installation was a little trickier than I expected. I’ve installed a ton of grips, so I didn’t think twice about installing the Executive Ordnance frame; but I soon found there was more to this than meets the eye.
The frame is a skeletonized unit, with a diagonal support strut down the middle and a solid base. This means you can’t install the grip screw like most grips—by dropping the screw down inside and just snugging it up. On the EO grip, you have to slip the screw in from the side, and hand-tighten it down until you can slip in a hex wrench.
Initially, I installed the grip frame and tried tightening the screw that way. The grip frame fits snugly, and I tapped it into place with a Micarta mallet. For whatever reason, I had a heck of a time getting the screw tightened enough to get the wrench into place to snug the screw down. After struggling with this for a while, I conferred with my photographer (who had already done an install) and my father-in-law (who happens to have been a tool and die worker for 40 years) – So much for experience.
They both had some initial difficulty, as well, but we found a way. What worked best for us was to not seat the grip fully and start the screw by hand. This left some play in the grip frame to ensure everything lined up correctly. We also added a bit of lube to the screw, which helped with the hand-tightening immensely.
Once the screw was seated and snugged up as far as it could go by hand, we tapped the frame and wrench into place and started tightening. It takes a little longer than installing a traditional plastic grip, but the thing to remember is, you only need to do this once with the Executive Ordnance grip.
After that, you’re just swapping out grip panels like you would with an auto pistol. The grip frame is also rock solid once in place, so you have a super stable platform to work from.
RUNNING THE GRIP ON THE RANGE
The grip panels come in three parts: the right and left side panels and a front spacer. The side panels are held in place by one screw each; the front spacer by two.
I received a Molon Labe grip frame for testing, along with three sets of grips: the Standard, the Honeycomb and the Stealth. The Standard grips came in olive drab, the Honeycomb in coyote and the Stealth in brown/black.
I tried the grip frame on my Palmetto State Armory PA-10 .308 rifle and my CMMG Mk4 K 5.56mm pistol. I especially liked it on the CMMG, and ended up leaving it there for most of my testing.
Of the three, the Honeycomb is the most aggressive. If you want a grip that you can really dig into, this is it. With that said, it doesn’t have sharp edges and is comfortable to use, letting your hand really seal well on the grip.
The Stealth grip is simple, streamlined and hand-filling. While the most basic of the grips EO offers, it’s a great option for folks who want the benefits of the G-10 grip panels but don’t need a lot of flash. The simple pattern also makes for a great platform to show off the multi-color laminate color options.
The Standard grip proved to be my favorite of the three. I found the machined ridges to provide a great combination of comfort and grip. I generally shoot without gloves, and these worked extremely well with bare hands.
Although it’s easy to focus on the grip panels—since they’re what visually pops on an Executive Ordinance grip, especially with all of the styles and color options available—you can’t forget the aluminum grip frame itself.
Grips need to be mounted on a solid foundation. When working with the rifle and pistol, I found that the EO frame did just that. As noted, the grip to lower fit is snug. Once mounted, however, it proved to be seamless, allowing no room for pinching between the grip and trigger guard. I was able to get a high grip on the gun, and my hand nestled in securely and comfortably. The front-to-rear depth of the grip was hand-filling without being overly large, and the grip angle was about perfect for me.
In addition to the grips, Executive Ordnance also makes trim rail panels licensed from RailScales, which are designed for Keymod rails. These panels are also CNC-machined from G-10, and come on three texture patterns: Deep4, Honeycomb and Trax.
The rail panels come in nine color options to match up with your grips, and are easily installed with the provided Keymod screws. I received a set of OD Deep4 panels that matched up to the Standard grip I had, and they installed in seconds on the rail of my CMMG pistol. I have to admit, this is the first time I’ve used rail panels like this, and they worked extremely well. They’re low profile at only 3/16 of an inch thick and 5/8 of an inch wide; but they provide a nice gripping surface, and keep your hand off of the rail as the weapon heats up.
The length of the rail is 4 inches, which seemed just right, as it gave plenty of gripping surface without taking up too much rail real estate. Weight is only .5 ounces, so you aren’t creating a front-heavy platform by adding them. EO Rail panels come in a set of three and run for $75 to $79, depending on the model you choose.
LOOKS AND PERFORMANCE
Versatility, style and function are what the Executive Ordnance grips bring to the table. They may run a little more than the plastic panels out there, but they bring a degree of customizability to your rifle that was previously unavailable.
The production quality is top notch, and the options are many, so you can tweak your rifle to perfection to meet your preferred use and aesthetic. And let’s face it, there’s nothing wrong with a rifle that looks good, as long it has the performance to back those good looks up.
The basic grip frames run $115 to $117, depending on the model you choose. They come with one set of Standard grips, offered in the color and style of your choice.
There is a slight upcharge of $2 to $11 if you choose one of pattern grips other than Standard. While that’s a bit more than your typical plastic AR grip, that’s on par with custom G-10 handgun grips, and you’re getting a distinct uptick in features and performance over a plastic grip.
Editor’s Note: A version of this article first appeared in the July-August 2016 print issue of World of Firepower Magazine.